Kissing my heart.
Squeezing my lungs.
Digging holes in my brain.
To create blood-stained shadows that leap in my eyes,
slither to the nooks of my soul,
and search out the corners of my mind
to blind my conscience.
My being trembles.
Trembles under its wieght.
Guilt has won?
Yes it has.
Love One Another, Enjoy
Is Ben in the crowd? Dr. Horton? Mom and Dad, you there?
Thanks, everyone, for coming.
Hopefully, you are all out there. I can’t take the pressure of being insightful, so I’m just going to be myself. (OK, funny boy in the back, turn around and walk back to your seat, you are a captive audience, remember?)
What I want to tell you is that this is it. This is all there is. After forty-five years on this planet trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do, I finally discovered the secret, and I thought I’d let you in on it, too. The secret is that you should love one another and do what makes you happy. Yeah, yeah, I know, I sound preachy, but hear me out.
When we are small, we are led. This happens with the best of intentions. Our teachers want us to learn the things that all children learn, basic things about how to get around in the world, how to add, how to read, what the scientific method is. We are little sponges, and we take it all in without really having the wherewithal to evaluate it. If we are driven, we get really good at becoming valued according to the commonly held standards. We learn to be polite. We are neat. We don’t let people down.
Has anyone in the crowd ever done something because someone else wanted you to? Ever been a passenger in the car with someone who was too inebriated to drive, but you didn’t want to cause a fuss? Ever take a job even when you knew you really had something else in you, and you were only lukewarm about the prospect? Ever spend an evening doing something that you didn’t want to do—and then regretted it?
What about the flip side? Have you ever awakened in the morning and sipped coffee and watched the sun rise and just thought to yourself: who am I that I get to see this beautiful, magnificent display of changing colors? Have you ever listened to the chorus of birds and thought to yourself, I get to wake up to the sweet sounds of spring and summer? Have you ever seen the metallic beauty of a dragonfly, or looked at the stark relief of a gnarled old tree against the winter sky, or just enjoyed the warm hug of your child or the smell of coffee or the feel of your clean cotton sheets when you go to bed?
When these things are absent, I miss them, but when they are around I am sometimes annoyingly oblivious. I don’t think I’m alone in wasting my time in all the conventional ways. I work extra hard sending emails, attending meetings, calling meetings, preparing agendas, saving for vacation, going to things that I feel lukewarm about, saying things that I don’t always believe, and why?
Well, one day I woke up and realized that it was up to me how I spent my day. That’s right, it took me over forty years to come up with that little insight. Stop snickering, you! This is my moment!
But seriously, why should I be so concerned about impressing people that I’m not even such great friends with? Do I always have to do a stellar job? Honestly, sometimes I’m better off doing a half-assed one, with time to spend doing the things I love. And those of you I called for in the crowd? Just wanted to make sure you were there, because you (and others) have carried me when I had nothing else. Ben, you ate breakfast with me every day when I was at my worst. My friend who called every day. That’s what mattered. Not what we are “supposed” to be, not what people expect us to be, not what we think we need to aspire to be in order to be a good, successful person. What is wanted from us is what we see glimpses of in our everyday life—the squeeze of the hand, the just listening conversation, the walking or running in a beautiful setting, the writing or painting or singing or kickboxing or laughing or whatever it is that you do that brings you pure joy. Turn up that feeling in your gut and start to listen to it, there is no “supposed to” do anything in this world.
So what will I do, you want to know?
I will run. It makes me feel free and strong. I will do it in the sun and in the rain and with friends, and alone and listening to music or a podcast. I will bake my zucchini-almond flour-raisin-apple-walnut muffins so that they are still a little underdone in the middle, because they are most delicious to me that way, and I don’t care if anyone else thinks I’m a Granola, because I make them all the time and I’m the only one who eats them. I’ll listen to my Go-Go’s while I wet mop the kitchen floor, and when no one’s looking, I just might borrow my daughter’s fedora and practice Michael Jackson’s moves in “Smooth Criminal,” because it’s fun—ok, and because no one is around. (I have not completely arrived, I suppose.) I will hit that golf ball with the torque of my whole body and with my hands finishing high, because it feels so good. I’ll read Nabokov and Lauren Groff and nonfiction and popular books and literature because I read voraciously and there is so much to learn, even if all that I learn is how not to write. (Yeah, yeah, you are telling me to keep going, I know I have a lot to learn, Smarty!) I will redo my house because even though I’m forty-five I think the hipsters have a really great thing going with this minimalist style, and besides, I’ve always loved plants, and they clean the air, and it goes with the hygge lifestyle that I love. Candles are nice, so I think I’ll always keep those burning in the winter, and I love herb tea, so I think I’ll be drinking that, too. With sugar. Not artificial sweetener. (Yech.)
In the winter, I’ll be skiing with the family, and I’ll sing along to the pop songs on the lift, because no one can hear me and because I’ve always done that because it’s fun. And when we are done, the whole family will go to Starbucks and I’ll order the hot chocolate with whipped cream and I won’t even care that it’s over 500 calories because it’s so freaking delicious and besides think of all those calories we burned when we were schussing down the hills.
Also, I like campfires, so I think I’ll be having a few of those. And hot dogs are so good over campfires. Crunching through leaves: very fun, no matter how old you are, so I will be doing that. Also, I have a guilty pleasure—slapstick comedies. I know it’s not completely appropriate to watch with the kids, but they are so darned hilarious. Who doesn’t laugh at the Over, Over part in Airplane? Which reminds me, I do love a slow burn film noir or those psychological thrillers. Mesmerizing. Of course, I want to cuddle up next to the huzzy when I watch, so I’ll be doing that. That’ll probably be in my workout clothes, which are so soft and comfy, but I want to leave some room to buy a really great dress. You know the kind—more than you ought to pay and worth every penny because you feel like a movie star every time you wear it. So I guess that entails some gussying up, which is also OK, because when I get my hair or makeup done, it reminds me how much of a skill it is to do that stuff and how luxurious it feels to have someone do it for me. What’s that, shallow? I don’t care, I’m doing it my way this time!
You are falling asleep. You think I’m preachy. Well, maybe I am, but I’m not going back. Too much wasted time. We’ve only got a little on this earth. Love one another, and also, enjoy!